In his new book Failed Illusions, scholar Charles Gati offers a new assessment of the Hungarian anticommunist uprising of 1956.
Gati argues that the failure was widespread. He says Hungary's leaders failed to lead; Soviet reformers seriously considered compromise, but in the end rejected it; and Washington did nothing for the rebels, despite its professed anticommunism.
The Eisenhower administration talked about the liberation of Eastern Europe and the rollback of Soviet power — and broadcast such messages daily through outlets such as Radio Free Europe.
Yet when the opposition in Hungary rose, Gati says it turned out that the United States did not have "a single plan on the shelf of the policy-planning staff of the State Department about what to do, nor were there any economic means by which they could influence the situation."
"It was hypocrisy at its worst, the gap between words and deeds was huge," says Gati, who is a senior adjunct professor of European Studies at the Johns Hopkins University and a native of Hungary who fled the country immediately after the 1956 revolt.